Friday, March 11, 2011

Q Day 2: Realignment?

Another anonymous asks: "Do you think true political re-alignments are possible anymore?"

Here's one where there's a good answer available: True party re-alignments, with Critical Elections and the rest of it, were basically a myth. You'll want to read David Mayhew's book explaining it.

Now, groups do have voting patterns, which can change over time, and demographic changes within states can change voting patterns in states or regions. So, for example, West Virginia has moved from a strong Democratic state in presidential elections to a strong Republican state over the last twenty years (although note that Democrats still win statewide offices there, so perhaps it's too soon to tell what's going on).

So those kinds of changes are certainly very possible; it's not at all hard to imagine, say, that Cuban-Americans could change their political alignment rapidly in response to a major change in Cuba, for example, with important consequences for Florida (and therefore the Electoral College). But the other thing doesn't really happen now because it never really happened.


  1. Does the Mayhew argument undermine Skowronek's model of presidential "regimes," then? I just took a look at Mayhew on Google Books, and I don't see any reference to Skowronek except a sentence in the Acknowledgements thanking him along with David Cameron (!) for commenting on an earlier paper.

  2. As Jon notes, the concept of a realigning election has been under attack in political science for some time now. The real question is whether we will get a stable dominant party coalition, as we most recently had with the Democratic New Deal Coalition, which dominated Congress and most state and local elections for a generation. I believe the years since 1994 have been unusual in the degree to which the parties have alternated in power, and the closeness particularly of presidential elections.

  3. You are missing something that is happening right under your nose. Texas is turning purplish (to use the original questioner's term). It's hard to see if you just look at statewide returns, but look a little closer at the demographics. There is a big split between the way white non-Hispanics vote and the way Hispanics vote in Texas. The future electorate of Texas will be much more Hispanic than it is today. Texas probably won't matter much in 2012, but watch out in 2016. What do the Republicans do when they have to compete in Texas?

  4. Jeff,

    I'm not a great fan of Skowronek's idea of presidential time, so perhaps I'm the wrong one to answer this. What I take from him that I think is useful is the idea that party context is really that sense, it doesn't need any kind of regularities or realignments to be useful.


    Not missing it, just trying to keep the post short. I very much agree that increased Latino voting is a very big deal -- but we don't yet know how it's going to look in 10-20 years, let alone beyond that.


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